While credit unions have worked to become a political force to be reckoned with, political analyst Charlie Cook suggested that the toughest thing about getting to the top of anything is staying there, adding "I'm sure the bankers would love to take your place."
"You used to be the little engine that could," he commented. "The good news is you've gotten to the top. The bad news is you're on top, and your fannie's hanging out. You've got to protect it, because people are gunning for you. You can't slow up at all."
The fact that the movement's strength has been based as much on grassroots as it has on PAC dollars and that it has been careful to be friendly to both political parties puts credit unions in a good position with legislators, Cook noted.
This is particularly important given the political split in the nation, he advised, pointing to the fact that the GOP has a statistical advantage of about four-tenths of a percent. Moreover, a Gallup survey shows that the American public is 33% Republican, 32% Democrat, and 34% independent. CUNA-affiliated credit union representatives report similar numbers: 31% Republican, 29% Democrat, and 29% independent.
How did the Republicans manage to win additional seat in the last election? By focusing on foreign affairs and voter turnout instead of the economy.
But with both sides of the aisle so closely matched, it's a real challenge to get anything passed, Cook suggested. "The good news is they can't do anything to you," he said. "The bad news is they can't do anything for you."